A proper time management strategy is required if you are a freelancer. It will help you to analyze how you manage your time, thereby predicting and improving your work behavior. The schedule and activities of a freelancer are more flexible than regular office-goers but it comes with a downside too. Along with the freedom to manage your time, there are the risks of distractions also and therefore, without a proper time management plan you might end up wasting your time and money.
A calendar will be sufficient for scheduling your time but it will not help if you want to know how efficiently you have spent your time. For that, you need a Time Tracking Tool that will ensure that you optimize your time and project management expertise.
If you have never tracked time in the past, you will be astonished to know that old hands in freelancing consider time trackers to be the lifeblood of their business. They take time tracking as an integral part of their job, no less important than project management or accounting, or payroll.
This is because not only does it help if you are charging hourly for work done but also acts as an X-ray vision of the state of your business. With time trackers, you can easily know if you are making profits or not, whether you are on the right track to meet deadlines and budgets, and if your team productivity is high.
What Can You Get from Time Tracking?
Here are some of the benefits that time trackers bring to the table.
- Higher productivity: Every freelancer needs to be productive. A successful freelancer must have an effective workflow and for that, it is critical to know how much time you are spending on your daily activities. You can always estimate the speed of your work and whether it is productive so that the next time around you can speed up things if required. Time trackers will show you the areas needed for improvement and assist you to find problems and solutions.
- Knowing about distractions: You will need a lot of discipline to stay focused on your real work and not wander into nonessential stuff. When you open the dashboard of time tracking software it shows you how much time you have spent on each area of work thereby helping you take smart work decisions in the future.
- Correct billing system: As a freelancer, you will typically work from home and send the results remotely to clients. Hence, the time value of work done should be accurately estimated before the client is billed. Time is money and it is vital that when you charge by the hour you should have an advanced time tracking tools and software doing the work for you. Your client should be able to verify the work done by perusing your reports and time records. It is a win-win situation for both you and your client as you will be paid accurately when you submit a proper invoice.
- Estimates based on actual work: When you use time trackers, all the data of current and previous projects will be with you. Looking back at the estimates of previous projects you will know how much time you have spent on them and based on that try to improve your performance. There will not be any conflicts with your clients when their expectations and your output complement each other.
- Track progress and goals: By analyzing periodically, the data of your reports and estimates, you can easily evaluate your progress and goals and check the areas where you have been most productive. Based on this data, you will be able to precisely set new goals, generate innovative ideas, and create new strategies to take your output and freelance business to the next level.
As it can be seen, the benefits of using time trackers are too good to miss out.
Why Should You Use Time Tracking Tools?
Time tracking software is one of the most in-demand tools for freelancers in their productivity space. Here are some of the ways to track time.
- Billing clients: Time tracking is essential if you are billing clients by the hour as you can accurately know how much to charge them. Time trackers take the guesswork out of billing, helping you to avoid underestimating the time taken to complete the project and selling yourself short or overestimating and overcharging which can affect your reputation. Time trackers make invoicing quick and easy and some tools will automatically transfer your billable time into invoices making calculations easy.
- Getting profits out of projects: Even if you are selling blocks of time instead of hourly billing, time tracking is still very crucial. Every project comprises a certain number of hours and each unit of hour represents a cost. To make profits out of projects, you should exactly know that the amount you are charging your client is more than the cost of completing the work. The only way to estimate that is to figure out how many hours were required to complete the project and this is where time trackers come into the picture.
- Enhancing your pricing: When you are starting off as a freelancer, there will be a lot of guesswork in the invoicing and project pricing. You have to balance delicately between pricing competitively to get new projects and overpricing yourself out of the market. It’s an act that you have to get right. Time trackers help solve this problem by allowing you to put together data from past projects. This information is critical as it shows how much each type of project costs.
- Making better and more precise scheduling: The same data library that you create with time trackers will show how long a project will take to be completed. No client wants deadlines to be overshot and so putting realistic expectations upfront by getting data from time trackers will improve the relationship with clients. Moreover, when you know roughly how long a project might take you can better plan your time across various projects and take on work that you can reasonably handle.
- Better team management: Time tracking informs you how efficiently you are working and whether you are going over your capacity towards burnout. Timesheet data will enable you to maintain a healthy work-life balance and be motivated toward your work. The same goes for your team as objective timesheet data will enable you to better understand their concerns.
- Having a record of the work: In addition to providing very useful summary data, time tracking creates records of what your team has worked on. This is very useful when clients ask for detailed information as to why a project took the time it did. The right time tracking tool can generate a report that has all these particulars. It will help you negotiate better pricing with clients as you can show them what it takes to complete their projects. Moreover, when you are working for an industry where you could be audited, time trackers create an accurate record of what work has been done.
- Improving your work ethics: There are several ways in which time trackers can help improve work ethics. How many hours do you spend in meetings and what are your work priorities are some of them. You will be surprised to know how accurately time trackers can showcase the work habits of you and your team.Time tracking assists you in making more smart decisions about how to price your project, how to run it, schedule your team, and what priorities to allot.
The Best Time Trackers for Freelancers
There are a multitude of options if you are looking for time tracking software to help you stay organized and focused on the job. New software is released almost every day and they all look to do more or less the same thing.
Time trackers for freelancers work like personal assistant. They tracktime when you are working on an hourly rate and manage projects, all accounting aspects of freelancing, and keepall the data in one place.
A top-of-the-line freelance time tracker should integrate seamlessly with other apps and software and have features like the ability to track time, edit and add time entries, and monitor billable time. But before you invest in one, avail a free trial to test all the features.
However, while these are some of the basic features of time trackers for freelancers, not all are created equal. Some cater to the demands of individual freelancers while others are specially designed for remote teams. A few time trackers make life easier for managers while others have the needs of the freelance worker in mind.
As a freelancer, if you want to get time tracking software there will be a lot of questions popping up in your mind. To make your job easier, here are the best time tracking apps for freelancers that will boost productivity while tracking your work.
Harvest – Tracking project budget and expense
Harvest is a time tracking software and expense tracking app. It is ideal for measuring the profitability of projects.
Some of the advanced features include:
- Automatic tracking of time: Harvest allows you to track time depending on the tasks, single hours, or to-do lists.
- Edit time entries: Add or edit entries though there is not much flexibility in customizing reports.
- Track billable time: Track billable time as well as other expenses related to projects. Get real-time insights into your business budget.
- Reports: Harvest converts timesheet data into visual reports with graphs. Get data categorized by freelancer or task and all information on billable amounts, costs, tracked hours, budgets, and more.
- Integrations: Several integrations with other apps are available with Harvest. It is available as a web tracker, desktop app, and mobile app both for Android and IOS.
There are two plans offered by Harvest. One is free with 1 user and 2 projects and the Pro version at $12 per month with unlimited projects and users. Avail of a free 30-day trial.
FreshBooks – Invoice and accounting software
FreshBooks is the perfect invoice and accounting software for freelancers as well as small and medium-sized businesses. One of its features is a time tracking module that monitors time and money spent on projects and clients. These are in addition to the optimized accounting functions.
Some of the advanced features are:
- Automatic time tracking: FreshBooks has an automatic tracking feature that monitors time while you work.
- Editing time entries: Time entries can be edited and added to timesheets
- Tracking billable hours: With FreshBooks, you can track billable hours along with accounting and invoicing functions.
- Reports: You can generate reports that give a breakdown of specific projects and clients as well as detailed financial reports about the condition of your business.
- Integrations: FreshBooks can be integrated with the most common and popular apps. You can therefore track time directly from the apps you use and are familiar with. It can be had as a web app or mobile on both Android and IOS.
FreshBooks offers a 30-day free trial with all features after which you have to choose a paid plan – Lite ($15 per month), Plus ($25 per month), Premium ($50 per month), or a customized plan pricing for more than 500 billable clients.
Hubstaff–Tracking performance for remote teams
Hubstaff is a user-friendly management tool for freelancers and contractors. Screenshots and activity monitoring will help you track what other members of your team are working on. This feature can be either switched off or customized on a per-user basis.
Some of the features of Hubstaff are:
- Automatic time tracking: With a one-click timer you can track your work either on the web or in the desktop app. You can also use the mobile app as a time clock through GPS tracking with geofencing capabilities.
- Editing entries: On Hubstaff, you can add or edit entries so that you can customize reports and timesheets.
- Tracking billable hours: the free version of Hubstaff has simple budgeting and tracking of billable hours
- Reports: Hours worked are converted into customizable reports in Hubstaff. These reports can be generated by week, project, client, team member, attendance, and location reports.
- Integrations: Some of the most popular apps can be easily integrated with Hubstaff. The time tracker is available on desktop apps for Mac, Windows, Linux, and Chrome, on the web, and mobile apps, both on IOS and Android.
Hubstaff offers a 14-day free trial after which you can upgrade to the Basic ($7 per month), Premium ($10 per month), and the Enterprise edition for $20 per month. You can also opt to keep the free version but with limited capabilities.
TimeCamp – Track project progress and billable rates for improving productivity
TimeCamp is a fully free time tracker that caters to unlimited clients. Incorporated in this time tracker are some features of a limited project management app. TimeCamp allows you to manage all projects on a single platform and collect all information about both your work and client data from there.
Some of the features of TimeCamp are:
- Automatic tracking of time: The desktop app of TimeCamp has an in-built automatic time tracker. All information in real-time can be accessed as it syncs with the web while working in the background. It also senses idle time apart from tracking time offline and detecting activities that you spend time on. Automatic mobile and web trackers can also be used and if you are mostly on the go, GPS trackerstoo.
- Editing entries: Add time manually and edit entries to add or remove activities, offline work, customize reports, time away, and more.
- Tracking billable hours: Track billable and non-billable rates and set them for various projects as you track all expenses. Budgeting helps to monitor the state of the finances and monitor its condition.
- Integrations: TimeCamp can be integrated with other apps both directly or through Zapier. Get TimeCamp on all platforms like Windows MacOS, or Linux, on the web as a Chrome extension, and as a mobile app (IOS and Android).
A free 14-day trial is offered by TimeCamp for new users after which you can either use the Free plan for unlimited users or switch to one of the paid plans – Basic (pricing starts from $6.30 user/month billed annually), Pro ($9 per user/month billed annually), or the Enterprise (custom pricing) edition.
Time tracking software is essential in the modern freelancing environment where there is hardly any time to manually fill invoices periodically, not to mention human errors made this way. Automated time trackers are a must-have for effective time management. All that you have to do is to go through the features of the productivity apps and choose one that precisely matches your need.
Keep in mind that despite certain similarities, all apps are different. If you are not sure about the app to choose, try all of them. After all, that’s what the promised free trials are for.